American rules halt Norfolk whisky export

A distiller's bid to flood America with Norfolk-made whisky has suffered a setback after 'unfair' trading rules effectively stopped export across the Atlantic.

Since, the English Whisky Company near Thetford began trading five years ago, the firm has shipped its produce across Europe, Asia and other North American countries.

But the head of St George's Distillery spoke of his frustration after the American authorities banned him from selling the company's single malt whisky as single malt whisky.

Andrew Nelstrop called for the US to level the playing field for distillers after it emerged that there was one rule for Irish and Scottish companies and another for the rest of the world.

The managing director said that distilleries in Ireland and Scotland were allowed to sell single malt matured in used casks.

However, the American Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau had ruled that distillers from other countries had to use new oak barrels in order to export and brand their produce as single malt whisky.

Mr Nelstrop, who started production at the distillery at Roudham in 2006, said he had been lobbying UK trade bodies, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and embassies for the last six months with no joy.

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'The rule in Europe is that to call it single malt it has to be made from malted barley and from a single distillery. But for some reason the Americans have decided - except for the Scots and Irish - that everyone else who makes single malt has to make it in brand new oak casks,' he said.

The English Whisky Company has been storing its spirit in former bourbon casks from America for the last five years and makes 150,000 bottles a year and sells about 60,000 a year.

Mr Nelstrop said the family-run business, which received a visit from Prince Charles four years ago, had sold to 12 countries across the world, including Japan and Canada without a problem. He added that the Americans had changed the rules for the Irish and Scottish distillers because of their history.

'They are favouring the Americans, Irish and Scottish whisky distilleries and the rest are stuffed. America should be a great market for us. We get on with each other, we speak the same language and for a small company it is easier to export to. Basically, we would have to call it whisky, which would devalue our product and it would not be worth it,' he said.

Mr Nelstrop added that he had no plans to conform with the American legislation and would continue to campaign for a change of the rules.

The distillery made a special blend and decanter to mark the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge earlier this year and has similar plans to produce a one-off whisky for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee next year.

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